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Registon ko'chasi, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

GPS: 39.654925634088, 66.975884020194

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The Registan is located in the city of Samarkand, also known as the “Pearl of the East”. This place of Uzbekistan is at the crossroads of several cultures and major trade routes. It was notably part of the traditional Silk Road connecting China to the Mediterranean Basin with the other Uzbek cities of Bukhara and Khiva. In the imagination of travelers, the Registan and Samarkand always reason as mythical places among the most renowned in Central Asia.

The Place of Registan (“Sandy Place” in Persian) represents the historic centre of life of the ancient city of Samarkand, a land close to the highly coveted desert. Founded by the Sogdian civilization or the Achaemenid dynasty before them, it passes in turn into the hands of the king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon Alexander the Great (4th century BC) so as Persians, Arabs, Turks and then Chinese in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, the city was conquered by the first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire Genghis Khan. The next century, it was restored by the conqueror Tamerlane (or Timur) who made Samarkand the capital of the Timurid Empire in 1370. Throughout his 35 years of reign, Tamerlane works to make Samarkand the most beautiful city in the world by developing the artistic technique of mosaic on the facades, walls and interior of buildings. It finances its architectural projects thanks to tolls levied on commercial caravans travelling on the Silk Road. It was at this time that the city reached its peak, in the 14th and 15th centuries, before being invaded by the Turko-Mongol dynasty of the Shaybanids (descendants of Genghis Khan) and losing its influence. Samarkand has always been the object of various influences and constitutes a hotbed of very diverse religions or beliefs bordering on the Western world, the East and Asia.

From an architectural point of view, the Registan contains the most beautiful heritage of the Timurid dynasty. It is distinguished by the three imposing madrasahs (theological schools and Islamic universities founded from the 15th to the 17th centuries) where the greatest scholars of the time are teaching. The Registan serves as a public place where the inhabitants meet to attend royal proclamations, civil executions and celebration of major events. This staggering trio of monuments that face each other is composed of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (the oldest), the Sher-Dor Madrasah (with its facade of tiger mosaics) and the Tilya-Kori Madrasah (generously decorated with gold).

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  • The radiance of the many mosaics wonderfully restored; the turquoise blue domes of the buildings; the mosques covered with earthenware
  • The Timurid architecture and the impressive size of monuments built in the appropriate proportions; the view from the top of the slender minarets
  • The gold decoration of the Tilya-Kori Madrasah; the old astronomical observatory of Ulugh Beg (building representative of the Timuride architecture); the tigers’ door of the Sher-Dor Madrasah
  • The Bibi-Khanym Mosque, one of the largest in Central Asia (it is decorated with thousands of precious stones)
  • The perfectly harmonious Shah-i-Zinda necropolis (series of timurid mausoleums), the archaeological site of Afrasiyab (superb wall paintings) and the eponymous museum (historical collections) all located a little further north from the Registan)
  • The Gur-e-Amir mausoleum (where rests the warrior chief Tamerlane, founder of the Timurid dynasty) and the Rukhobod Mausoleum (former spiritual master of Tamerlane) further south
  • The big marketplace of Samarkand (Siyob Bazaar), the largest in Uzbekistan; the food market located near the Place of Registan; the Chorsu Art Gallery (Uzbek art objects)
  • The discovery of the choyxona (typical teahouse to quickly restore or drink tea) installed near the Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Place of Registan; tasting the famous Samarkand bread (it can be kept for up to three weeks)
  • The Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival in August; the Orient Silk Road Express train travelling through four Central Asian countries of the Silk Road (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan)
  • Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world, as are the ancient cities of Babylon, Athens or Rome. It is classified nationally as the State Samarkand Historical Architectural Reserve. It was not until 1930 that Tashkent was officially designated as the capital of Uzbekistan at the expense of Samarkand.
  • In the Sanskrit language (from North India), Samarkand means “place of meeting” or “place where we meet” because of its function as a commercial crossroads. This city is full of praising nicknames such as “the magnificent”, “mirror of the world”, “garden of the soul” or even “jewel of Islam”.
  • The oldest parts of the city of Samarkand rest on the hill of Afrasiyab, near the Bibi-Khanym Mosque (they were destroyed by the Mongols at the beginning of the 13th century). A hundred elephants brought back from India participated in the construction of the mosque, the most beautiful in the Islamic world at the time.
  • The Shah-i-Zinda necropolis is an important pilgrimage site in Asia because it rests on the site of the tomb of Kusam ibn Abbas, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (died as a martyr in the 7th century).
  • The Ulugh Beg Madrasah was one of the most prominent universities in the Islamic world in the 15th century (in addition to religious programs, mathematics and astronomy were taught there).
  • The Gur-e-Amir mausoleum is said to have inspired the plans and architecture of the Taj Mahal (India). Originally, this funeral monument was not intended to accommodate the late body of Tamerlane but that of his favourite grandson, Muhammad Sultan, who died suddenly at the age of 19.
  • Tamerlane is considered the founding father of the Uzbek nation. In Persian, this name can be translated by “Timur the Lame” (he injured his legs during a battle). This conquering chief had used to enslave the defeated populations and to behead the heads of enemy troops to erect them as a war trophy. His military campaigns have led him to invade numerous territories including part of present-day Russia, India, Iran as well as a large area of the Middle East (his empire extended from India to the Mediterranean). He notably fought the Golden Horde, a Turko-Mongol Empire made up of several principalities led by Khans and inherited the conquests of Genghis Khan.
  • According to a Mongolian book published in the 13th century (“The Secret History of the Mongols”), Tamerlane has Turkish-Mongolese origins and kinship ties with a nomadic tribe from which Genghis Khan (the Barlas) may also originate.
  • It was on the death of Tamerlane’s grandson, Ulugh Beg (Mirza Muhammad Taraghay) in 1449, that Samarkand began to decline in favour of the city of Herat in Afghanistan (which became the new capital of the Timurids). Sultan Ulugh Beg was killed by his eldest son Abd-al-Latif (himself will be murdered a year later by a relative of his father who had promised to take revenge).
  • At the end of the 19th century, the Samarkand region was conquered by the Russian Empire led by Alexander II. It was integrated into Turkestan which included Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as well as part of Kazakhstan.
  • Under Soviet occupation, the historic monuments of the Registan suffered heavy damage and the city’s urban plans were radically transformed (traditional wooden houses were replaced by large buildings and then wide aisles).
  • Uzbekistan gained its independence in 1991 and the city of Samarkand was placed on the World Heritage Sites by Unesco 10 years later.
  • To promote the development of tourism, Uzbekistan has decided to abolish visas for citizens of 45 countries worldwide (including a large majority of European countries).
  • Near the Registan, the Afrasiyab Museum in Samarkand allows visitors to plunge back into the history of the founding of the legendary city.
  • Complete your visit to the country by discovering the cultural and historical richness of the Uzbek city of Bukhara, which was also part of the Silk Road (count 4 hours of driving by car or 2 hours of travelling by train).
  • Another alternative may be to go to the home town of Tamerlane, Shahrisabz, south of Samarkand (2 hours of transport).

Where to eat

  • Besh Chinor
    (typical restaurant)
  • Karim Bek
    (melting skewers)
  • Oasis Garden
    (pleasant setting)

Where to go out

  • Regional Studies Museum
    (captivating visit)
  • Konigil Meros
    (millennial know-how)
  • State Museum of Culture History...
    (priceless pieces)

Where to sleep

  • Irgashev's Guest House
    (welcoming guest house)
  • Jahongir Bed and Breakfast
    (close to the Registan)
  • Platan
    (spacious and well-equipped)

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